From The Plant Encyclopedia


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Nelumbo nucifera

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Category Perennial, Aquatic
Kingdom Plantae
Division Magnoliophyta
Class Angiospermae
Order Proteales
Family Nelumbonaceae
Species in this genus
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Aden Earth Zone

7 - 20


  • Cultivation: Naturalizing, Easy-To-Grow, For-Gardeners
  • Light: Sun
  • Soil: Rich
  • pH: 7
  • Moisture: Aquatic


  • Form: Herbaceous
  • Habit: Perennial
  • Flower:
  • Fruit/Seed:
  • Foliage: Leaves, Green
  • Uses: Ornamental


Nelumbo is a Genus of Aquatic plants with large, showy Flowers resembling water lilies, commonly known as lotus. The generic name is derived from the Sinhalese word Nelum. There are two confusingly similar living species in the genus. The Sacred lotus (N. nucifera) is better known. Native to Asia, it is commonly cultivated, and also used in Chinese medicine and cooking. This species is the national flower of Egypt, India and Vietnam. The American lotus (N. lutea) is native to North America and the Caribbean. Horticultural hybrids have been produced between these two geographically separated species. A third, extinct species (Nelumbo aureavallis) is known from Eocene fossils from North Dakota, USA.

There is residual disagreement over which family the genus should be placed in. Traditional classification systems recognized Nelumbo as part of the Nymphaeaceae (water lily) family, but traditional taxonomists were likely misled by evolutionary convergences associated with an evolutionary shift from a terrestrial to an aquatic lifestyle. In the older classification systems it was recognized under the biological order Nymphaeales or Nelumbonales. Nelumbo is currently recognized as its own family, Nelumbonaceae, as one of several distinctive families in the Eudicot order Proteales. Its closest living relatives, the (Proteaceae and Platanaceae), are shrubs or trees.

Popular Cultivated Species

American Lotus Nelumbo lutea

Sacred Lotus Nelumbo nucifera 



Most academic botanists recognize Nelumbo in the family Nelumbonaceae, comprising only the single genus, Nelumbo, with probably two species of Aquatic plants, found in North America and Asia (and perhaps some adjacent areas, but widely cultivated elsewhere).

Lotus (Nelumbo) is one of the most majestic plants to have in a water garden. It is by far the most exotic of all pond plants. And it is the one plant that scares water gardeners. Quite a few people tend to shy away from them, and are intimidated by them. NO NEED! They are very easy to grow once you understand the basic care of them.

The colors available are white, yellow, pink, and even bi-color. The blooming period is usually in late summer in colder climates because Lotus love the heat. They are very fragrant and the perfume will permeate the evening air. The flowers, which last 3 to 5 days, close up at night. Most florists and craft people love the dried Lotus pods because of their uniqueness in fresh and dried arrangements. The seeds that dry in the pods will rattle when shaken. It is reported that the seeds remain viable for centuries! They are reports that folks were able to germinate lotus seeds left in the tombs of the pharaohs after 3,000 years.

The leaves of Nelumbo can be distinguished from those of genera in the Nymphaeaceae as they are peltate, that is they have fully circular leaves. Nymphaea, on the other hand, has a single characteristic notch from the edge in to the center of the lily pad. The seedpod of Nelumbo is very distinctive.   

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